We feel like this describes every indie game dev at some point lol @the_datababe
You would be surprised how many people use movies , TV shows , streams , and YouTube videos to learn English! So instead of asking someone to stop typing in their native language, you or a mod can use Google translate and connect with them. Make them still feel welcomed!
— Janey O’ the Laney | #BLACKMINECRAFT (@_JaneyLaney) July 9, 2021
It’s a beautiful thing that the gaming and streaming community has become so diverse. However, it’s always important to keep in mind how crucial it is to make others feel welcome — regardless of the language they speak or where they’re from. We can all put in the effort to do this. We love that this tweet by @_JaneyLaney conveys this.
— Mia Amare | ENVArtist – working on coms… slowly (@MiaAmareVT) June 27, 2021
Honestly, there is nothing to add to this one. We all come to a point where we need to hear a message like this, so soak this one up. 🙂 Thanks for this one @MiaAmareVT
Again, the beauty of the #indiegamedev community on Twitter (and even IG) is the support and advice given from other indie game developers. So, if you aren’t already plugged in (or you are a non-dev who wants to stay up on creative games), track that hashtag and stay plugged in 😀
A chance message sent our way on our Twitter account, led to a creative working relationship with Will Dodson, composer for film, television, and gaming. He’s a busy guy! But he took some time out of his schedule to talk with us about his inspiration as a game composer, and what he’s most excited about for Hamsterdamm.
Check out our convo!
What got you started in the video game music composing business?
I’ve been a composer since 2007, and since then I’ve had the opportunity to write music for many different forms of media. This includes films, documentaries, themed attractions, escape rooms, interactive media, as well as radio dramas, podcasts, and stand-alone instrumental album releases. However, l recently made the transition to game music, almost exclusively.
What inspires you in the music creation process?
Inspiration is a funny thing. Occasionally, something as simple as the rhythm of my car’s wiper blades can inspire a new musical idea. Other times it can be a more thought-out process. I do find that the best ideas come quickly.
What is your favorite video game music genre?
This is a hard question! If I really have to pick just one genre, it’s the original NES music, specifically Mario Bros. 1-3, and The Legend of Zelda series. Anything Koji Kondo touched is a work of undeniable genius.
Our team is small but full of inspiration, and every person is really trying to create something unique…
What drew you to the Hamsterdamm project?
I love what Nerdy Bear stands for, and the projects in development are absolutely fascinating. When I read the description for Hamsterdamm, and saw that one piece of game art, depicting the game’s lead character, I knew I had to work on this game.
What are you most excited about regarding the Hamsterdamm soundtrack?
The possibilities. To have the opportunity to bring this type of sound to a game like this is super exciting for me. Our team is small but full of inspiration, and every person is really trying to create something unique and special with Hamsterdamm.
In terms of video game music, I’m also the composer for Exibyte Studio’s Isles of Pangaea, Kova Kreative’s Johnny Pompadouri, an upcoming fantasy RPG called Arcadia, as well as co-composer for Glyde the Dragon, from Valefor Games LTD.
I would argue that game music has contributed as much to the arts as film music has, at this point.
What has been the most rewarding thing about working in this industry?
The people. Game people are almost always incredibly talented, endlessly inspired, and focused on doing something cool. When you link up with the right dev, you’re simply making games with your friends. What could be better than that?
Why do you feel that music has such a profound impact on gamers?
Oh man….when done right, it can be that final layer of icing on an incredible immersive experience. I would argue that game music has contributed as much to the arts as film music has, at this point. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t get warm nostalgic feelings when they hear Kondo’s Mario theme, or Tetris, or Final Fantasy, or Zelda…the list goes on and on. Music is the heart and soul of many classic games.
Where can people connect with you online and find your work?
We asked Will a couple of more questions specifically related to Hamsterdamm, its development, and how he plans to bring creativity to the music used. We will share that awesome part of the convo in our next newsletter.
February has been a busy month at the NBS lair. From enjoying one of the coolest Cons we’ve ever attended to holding our first live Q&A, Feb was equal parts fun as it was hard work. We are on our way up the stairs of progress lol
Keep up-to-date with what’s happening at NBS below.
The Joy That Was Virtuous Con
A couple of months back, we kept seeing tweets for Virtuous Con (Twitter is an excellent place to find out about Cons). So, curiosity got the best of us (and we’re glad it did!), and we immediately dug deeper. What we found had us immediately adding this event to our already-packed Google calendar for Feb 20th through the 21st.
Virtuous Con is an event that celebrates the work of independent science fiction, fantasy, and comics creators. From virtual booths for vendors to interactive panels, this Con had it all.
Bonus: One of the most awesome and special things about this Con is that it spotlighted the work of BlPOC creators.
Here are a few of our takeaways from attending this excellent event:
Virtuous Con Created an Immersive Virtual Experience
If you are working on a Con of any kind this year, Virtuous Con should definitely be a model. They created an immersive experience that mimicked what an in-person Con would feel and bypassed the limitations of COVID-19. First, the conference tool they used made it possible to easily engage in video conferences with other attendees and participate in Con-wide chats.
Additionally, the layout was reminiscent of a conference floor with virtual vendor booths, multiple floors, and the opportunity to enter a panel discussion room. You could even pick seats like at a real Con. The Virtuous Con team thought of it all when they created this immersive Con experience, and it totally showed.
The Importance of Supporting Diverse Creators
We had the pleasure of attending the Women of Color in Sci-Fi Television panel. And one of the takeaways that we took from this exceptional discussion was how important it is to have people of color at the table and support them when they come. Panelist, and owner of the Interspectional podcast, Latisha Jones, knocked it out of the park with this quote: “Put me in the room, but expect that I’ll be there.”
This session was a great look into how to take the steps to be inclusive and truly involve people of color in the creative process to ensure our voices are heard.
The Intersection of Hard Work and Looking Beyond Perfection
How many times have you brushed off a project because you felt you couldn’t reach the level of perfection you had in your head? We’ve been there! Making Our Way: A Guide to Independent Publishing provided some insight into how to get over this hump. This panel included some exceptional titans in the comic industry, and each of their stories was an inspiration. The two quotes that resonated with us from this session were:
“Anything good comes with sacrifice.” – Roye Okupe, Founder of YouNeek Studios,
“Nothing is going to be perfect, just get it out there!” – Jamilla Rowser, Founder of Black Josei Press.
For us, these have been two ideals that we have had to stick close to in our push forward with NBS projects. It was confirmation that we have the right idea to reach the next rung on the ladder.
Virtuous Con Was The Highlight of This First Quarter of 2021
This experience was the highlight of the first part of 2021. It was fantastic to see other BlPOC creators discuss their evolution, and make a difference in the world through their creativity. Virtuous Con’s next event is coming up this June, so please check this exceptional team out!
Things are full-steam ahead with Hamsterdamm. If you have been keeping an eye on our Twitter and Instagram, you might have seen our: “By golly we’ve got a menu” post (We were clearly going for Gomer Pyle vibes here lol). The developer that we are working in collaboration with created an exceptional menu, and laid the groundwork for the prototype for movement and physics within the game.
We also have a settings page (woot!). Now, our amazing composer Will Dodson, the developer, and ourselves are collaborating in Discord to begin combining the music, gameplay, and aesthetic elements.
Here are a few other quick updates that our team is working on:
The creation of a health system,
A basic enemy spawn system, and
A level selection screen
We should have more updates within the next two weeks.
We Had Our First Live Q&A on IG and Twitch!
This past Saturday (Feb 27th) we had our first ever Live Q&A! For a little over an hour, we spent some time talking with some awesome folks (you all!) about: finding funding as an indie game studio, the inspiration for Hamsterdamm, the potential for a shared universe (yeah..you heard that right ;-)), where you can play Hamsterdamm, and whether we get down to the Backstreet Boys or NSYNC (the convo took a fun turn lol).
Can you believe that it is January? Honestly, where in the world does the time go (January has always felt like the longest month to us). Nevertheless, when you are making an indie game, time starts to go at warp speed magically.
So, what are we up to at NBS these days? Well, we have some exciting things going on. Some of it is dev-related, while there are a few non-dev—but just as important—things going on regarding Hamsterdamm and our quest to make it an exceptional indie game experience. Check out our updates for early Feb:
What Will Hamsterdamm Sound Like?
As we all know, music—and audio in general—in a game matters. What would Silent Hill be like without that creepily ambient soundtrack? Would Mario still hit the same without that chime sound effect every time you get a coin? Well, we are one step closer to creating a sound that accurately conveys the vibe and story of Hamsterdamm.
We have the first song that is going to be included in the game. Will Dodson, music composer for countless video games, films, television projects, and other media, produced an exceptional track for our debut game.
Hamsterdamm has a film-noir/detective vibe, and we wanted the music to convey that. However, we didn’t want to go full-on Hollywood dramatic. While 1920s Old Hollywood and Dick Tracy influences the look and story, we still wanted it to have a whimsical feel. The final result was an eclectic electro-pop and swing mix (think Postmodern Jukebox). Music will be at the heart of this game, and Dodson gave us an exceptional piece to begin shaping the audio world of Hamsterdamm around.
Check out this sample 🙂
Dodson definitely captured our vision. We can’t wait to build on this and start to see how else music is going to be playing a role in this game 😉
Are You Signed Up to the Email List? An E-Book Awaits
We are still early in the process, but we have been discussing the idea for Hamsterdamm for the past few years. With that, we have gone through quite a few concept images. So, we took some of those drawings and pixel art and created a free mini-ebook that charts the journey we have made so far. We have included this ebook as a free gift for those who sign up for our email list.
If you are interested in the beginnings of a new indie game company or want to keep up-to-date on what’s happening with our projects, we invite you to sign-up. We only send updates twice a month (at the most), and you will be in the running for some freebies and have first dibs (do we even say that anymore? lol) on testing and demos. Again, as a thank you for signing up, we will be sending a free ebook your way.
Well, we are happy to say that actual development has begun on the game. A schematic is being produced to test out the features. At first, we were going for a traditional 2D pixelated playing experience, where players control the characters and their movements. However, while the player’s actions will still impact the character, we have altered this gameplay dynamic a bit.
We have decided to really put the audio component of the game front-and-center, which means it will impact how you play. We don’t want to fully give away this new mechanic as we are still tweaking it and figuring out if it works, but rest assured that music will have a significant part to play in the gameplay.
That’s a lot to be excited about. As cool new things come along, we will be sharing them with you. Thanks for coming along on our journey!
If you’ve been sleuthing around on our socials, you may have seen that we have announced our first game in development: Hamsterdamm.
We’re excited to be to the point of announcing this title finally. For details about the game itself and what to expect, slide on over to the Hamsterdamm game page (especially if you get hyped for comic-style noir games ;-D)
From now on, most of our dev logs are going to be related to this game, So, here is what we have to report:
Putting All the Puzzle Pieces Into Place
While development is actively beginning on this 2D perspective-shifting infinite runner project, there were some questions that we had to ask before we started:
“What do we need to have in place before we begin?”
“Is the concept tight, or are there some missing parts?”
“What platforms is this game going to be playable on?”
Once those questions were answered, we started to look for designers to collaborate with to begin to set up the prototype to expand on. We found an awesome designer (who we will be sharing more information about in the coming month or so).
Game Creation and Game Menus
Game menus play a significant part in the gaming process. Think about some of your favorite game menus. What was one of the major qualities that made you stand up and take notice? Even if it didn’t look the greatest, the ease of navigation and usability was likely a major reason you felt good about it. Games like Destiny, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and Metroid Prime come to mind.
This is something we are delving into for Hamsterdamm.
No one wants to spend time on a game they cannot navigate, and we wholeheartedly understand that. Therefore, we are putting our focus on this aspect within the next month. No one wants to feel like this guy after playing a game with poor UI:
We feel ya, buddy…
We have started drawing up in-game menus, designing the user interface, and setting up visual representations for how the game will play out. Additionally, we are also beginning to draw out the different perspectives the game will take on as players move through it.
On the non-game development front, we are ramping up our outreach. We can’t delve into detail right now, but if you are on our mailing list (which, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join), you know that some freebies and goodies are coming down the pipeline that reveals more of the Hamsterdamm story. Some of it will be exclusively for those on the email list, while others we will gladly share with everyone.
So, stay tuned! We will have even more updates to share by next week!
Budget? Does anyone really like that word? Well, we have grown to embrace it over the past year. In 2018, my partner and myself began to make personal finance a priority after realizing we needed to pay off some debt (don’t we all?), and we are less than a year away from being debt-free (woohoo!)
We have taken this new commitment to financial discipline (it hasn’t always been easy lol) and also vowed to use this approach with game development.
Obviously, we do not have an unlimited bank account for this process, but we have been fortunate enough to put some money away for the development of our first game. We are immensely grateful and want to be good stewards of the resources we do have. So, that meant creating a budget.
Game Budgets Don’t Have to Be Complicated
One of us is a friend of the whiteboard, while the other is a whiz with spreadsheets. As a result, we combined these two preferences to monitor and track our budget. We simply listed out all the things we needed and what we can or are willing to spend for them. Here are some of our quick takeaways from doing this process:
We decided what we could do ourselves – We wanted to approach this decision with the mindset of: “what do we have the skills and time to do ourselves, and what do we need to have someone do for us?” For example, one of us has a background in social media marketing and developing marketing plans. So, we have decided that’s something we can take on. Additionally, the other has some skills with actual game development and has decided to take on the game’s technical development. Again, this was done with careful consideration of the time we had and the skills we could put to use.
We researched the cost of what we couldn’t do – As an indie game studio, we want a blend of expertise with value (as many of you may also be looking for). We know that we may not get the most experienced people to help us, but that’s quite okay. We want to work with contractors who are passionate about what they do, have some experience, and are willing to take some direction. These people may be college students or people who work in this business as a side hustle. Working with individuals like this can help us save on costs. We did some preliminary research on freelance marketplaces to see the average rate for what we needed and compared it to what we could pay.
We tried to be realistic about what we needed – Unfortunately, we cannot do it all. There were things that we would love to do, but there were other things we needed more. For example, we wanted to get some elaborate web design work done for our game’s landing page but realized that it isn’t something we needed right now (even though it would look pretty cool). On the other hand, we almost forgot that we needed to budget for things like music and a trailer.
We have a master company budget and a project budget – We are treating every game like a project, which means it needs its own budget. We have a master budget for recurring administrative costs that impact our company as a whole and another budget that is specifically for the project. Eventually, the project budget will also be included in the master budget to track all expenses for tax purposes (thank goodness for CPAs!!!!). So, if you aren’t doing this, be sure to track all expenses and get an accountant (this person will make tax time much easier).
Budgeting isn’t the sexiness thing, but it can definitely make life easier as we get closer to starting the game development process. It feels great to know that we have a plan for the budget we do have. As a result, we have much less of a chance of running out of funds. Honestly, all anyone needs to get started is some brief research and a spreadsheet 🙂
There isn’t really a blueprint for starting a game company. There are many amazing YouTube videos, Twitter accounts, and blogs out there that are offering some exceptional advice. However, one thing that we have learned is that the process of building an indie game company isn’t one-size-fits-all.
This journey is unique for everyone. This also means that the lessons we are learning are also unique. So, if you are on the path to launching an indie game company, or want a glimpse into what is happening behind the scenes, take a look at these three things we’ve learned this past month:
Get The Right Resources! – This seems like a no-brainer, right? However, sometimes, the issue was that we didn’t even know what resources we needed. Additionally, there were times where we thought we had the right tools but didn’t. So, there were repeated trips back to the drawing board to look at our goals and start researching the tools and resources that can get us there. A great example of this was our discovery of Fiverr. There were times where we needed some concept art done or a logo made, and we realized that it’s okay to outsource what you don’t have the skills to do (a bonus learning point ;-)).
It’s Okay to Ask for Help – Guess what…the indie game community is an inviting one. We’ve discovered that people are always willing to help and offer support. We can’t tell you how many Discords we’ve come across where indie game developers share ideas, offer feedback, and promote tools that have worked for them. Even well-known indie game studios started where are, and many are open to sharing what they know. We’ve tested games for other indie game developers and even asked if some streamers would be willing to stream our game once we complete it (if it fits). The indie game communities on Twitter, Instagram, and Discord have been exceptional.
Research is CRUCIAL – One of us is a data nerd…so this was a welcome thing to learn. When it comes to indie games, it is so tempting to get caught up with the creative side of things that we can forget about the practical stuff. This month, we got serious about learning who our audience was, who the game would appeal to, and what we need to know as we move further along into this process. We are spreadsheet people now, LOL
We can truly say that this has been an exceptional journey so far. We are learning a lot, and while we will definitely keep doing updates about our upcoming game, we also want to share what we are learning for those who are on the same path.
Has a goal ever hit you so hard that you wished there more than 24 hours in a day? Well, that is where we’ve been in the last two weeks. We’ve finally begun to make movements toward two things: 1. the development of game documents & 2. a social media strategy.
So, let’s address each one separately.
Developing the Game Docs
We decided on the very first game that we would like to be the first official release for Nerdy Bear Studios. It will be a mobile-based game that is inspired by one of the most interesting, intoxicating, and fun places we have ever been.
We are working alongside a game designer to get some detailed game documents ready to start the actual development process. It’s an exciting time. One where we are smoothing out the story, walking through technical aspects of the game, and getting the opinions of friends and family. We are definitely in information-gathering mode.
Creating a Realistic Social Media Plan
Being honest, both myself and my partner still have full-time jobs.
So, it has been a challenge keeping things up—especially on the marketing front. However, we have done three things within the past two weeks:
Talked about priorities – We begin to realign our priorities and understand what matters at this point and what we can schedule for later. We started to discuss how we need to make getting the word out about what we do a priority. The last thing we want is to build a cool game, but not have anyone to share it with.
Understood how important brand messaging is – Brand messaging is all about creating conversations and connections. We want to be as interactive and transparent as we can be about what we are working on. We knew this has to be a part of our overall strategy, and we wanted to get better at using social media to do this.
Creating realistic goals – Can we both dedicate five hours a day to social media marketing and branding? No! However, what we can do is develop a blog post a week, use our work breaks to interact with you all on social media, and make a conscious effort to grow our following.
Our top two goals at this point are to start the process of creating an excellent game that you will enjoy, and creating a community with you while we do it. So, you can expect more social media-related updates and some good progress on the technical side of the development of our first game.